EU Adopts Anti-SLAPP Legislation

On 19 March the Council adopted the first EU level anti-SLAPP suit legislation. The legislation is designed to combat the phenomenon known as SLAPP suits, strategic lawsuit against public participation, in which a wealthy person/company/entity attempts to curtail legal free speech by engaging in frivolous lawsuits designed to deplete the resources of the “person” exercising their free speech. While ordinary individuals are the target of SLAPP suits, it is often journalists and human rights defenders who are the most targeted. The EU Directive requires Member States to enact implementing legislation that will allow for several safeguards which will be available when a ‘manifestly unfounded’ or ‘abusive’ claim is brought before the court; however, the directive will only apply when there is a cross-border implication to the case.

The procedural safeguards provided for in the Directive will allow parties who believe that the suit against them is “manifestly unfounded” or “abusive” to apply to the court for a dismissal which the court will be obligated to do in a timely fashion. If the suit is found to be a SLAPP suit, then the court will have the ability to decide that the claimant will bear the entirety of the respondent’s (SLAPP victim) costs. If the court assigns all costs to the claimant, then the court can order them to provide financial security in order to ensure that the costs of the respondent are paid, and depending on the national implementing legislation of each Member State, this can also be extended to security for damages. The courts are also able to enforce penalties or ‘other equally effective measures’ against the person bringing the suit to discourage frivolous and abusive lawsuits. Finally, if a suit in a non-EU country is deemed to be a SLAPP suit, then the courts of EU Member States must refuse to recognise or enforce the judgement.

The Directive will only apply to suits that have some sort of cross-border implications. While this somewhat limits the effectiveness of the legislation, the Directive has provided a fairly broad interpretation of what constitutes a cross-border implication. Under the Directive, all situations are considered to have a cross-border implication unless both parties are domiciled in the same Member State as the Court presiding over the suit and all other relevant aspects are also contained to that Member State.

The Directive will enter into force twenty days after the Directive’s publication in the Official Journal of the European Union after which Member States will have two years to enact implementing legislation.


Click here for the Press Release,Anti%2DSLAPP%3A%20Final%20green%20light%20for%20EU%20law%20protecting%20journalists,lawsuits%20meant%20to%20silence%20them.



Sustaining Partners